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Farmer, Kenneth William George (Ken) (1910–1982)

by Bernard Whimpress

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Kenneth William George (Ken) Farmer (1910-1982), Australian Rules footballer, was born on 25 July 1910 in North Adelaide, elder son of South Australian-born parents William Thomas Farmer, labourer, and his wife Ethel Ann, née Sitters. Educated at North Adelaide Public School, Ken started work at 14 as a junior storeman with Swallow & Ariell Ltd.

Selected in 1929 as centre half-forward for North Adelaide, in his first South Australian National Football League game on 27 April Farmer kicked four goals against West Torrens. In 224 league and eighteen interstate appearances between 1929 and 1941 he was never held goalless in a completed game. On thirty-seven occasions he scored ten goals or more in a match, including thirteen at Unley Oval on a wet day on 7 September 1935 and twenty-three goals and six behinds against West Torrens on 6 July 1940. The first South Aus­tralian footballer to kick one hundred goals in a season, he continued to do so for eleven consecutive seasons, a feat unparalleled in senior Australian football. In 1936 he booted 134 goals from nineteen matches to establish a South Australian record that stood until 1969. During his career he kicked 1417 goals for North Adelaide and seventy-one for South Australia; he was dubbed `football’s Bradman’. Nevertheless he failed to win a Magarey medal for best and fairest player in the league. His rewards were North Adelaide team premierships in 1930 and 1931.

On 21 December 1935 at St Cuthbert’s Church of England, Prospect, Farmer married Floris Edna Craig, a shop assistant. He retired from league football in 1941. Enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force on 28 April 1942, he was employed as a service policeman in Australia (1942-44) and England (1944-46) before being discharged in Adelaide on 3 July 1946 as a temporary sergeant. He played in RAAF football teams; in England he captained a side that included the cricketer Keith Miller against an army team led by Lindsay Hassett.

In 1948 Farmer coached the reserves at North Adelaide. Next year he became league coach, winning premierships in his first season and in 1952. Always well prepared and analytical, he studied the styles of opposing players and teams, and emphasised fitness. He had a professional approach to football in an amateur age; his intensity and attention to detail bordered on the obsessive. In 1954 he trained the State side. That year he wrote about football for the Sunday Advertiser and, with the advent of television, gave commentaries on the game. The North Adelaide Football Club named gates at Prospect Oval after him in 1980, and next year the SANFL instituted the Ken Farmer medal, presented each season to the leading goal-kicker.

Farmer, who had worked as a sales representative, chiefly for G. & R. Wills & Co. Ltd, retired in 1970. A complex personality, he could be witty and charming but suffered from depression for long periods. He died on 5 March 1982 at Modbury and was cremated. His wife and their son survived him. In 1998 he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Whimpress, The South Australian Football Story (1983)
  • P. Depasquale, The Farmer Files (2002).

Citation details

Bernard Whimpress, 'Farmer, Kenneth William George (Ken) (1910–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/farmer-kenneth-william-george-ken-12477/text22443, published in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 23 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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